Venetian or Venetan ( ˆeÅ‹gʊ̯a ˈvÉ›neta or ˆvÉ›neto, is a Romance language spoken as a native language by Venetians, almost four million people in the northeast of Italy,Ethnologue mostly in the Veneto region of Italy, where most of the five million inhabitants can understand it, centered in and around Venice, which carries the prestige dialect. It is sometimes spoken and often well understood outside Veneto, in Trentino, Friuli, the Julian March, Istria, and some towns of Slovenia and Dalmatia (Croatia) by a surviving autochthonous Venetian population, and Brazil, Argentina, Australia, and Mexico by Venetians in the diaspora. Although referred to as an Italian dialect ( vec|diaÅ‚eto|links=no, it|dialetto) even by some of its speakers, Venetian is a separate language with many local varieties. Its precise place within the Romance language family remains controversial. However, both Ethnologue and Glottolog group it into the Gallo-Italic branch.


Like all Italian dialects in the Romance language family, Venetian is descended from Vulgar Latin and influenced by the Italian language. Venetian is attested as a written language in the 13th century. There are also influences and parallelisms with Greek and Albanian in words such as (fork), (to fork), (chair) and (T-shirt). The language enjoyed substantial prestige in the days of the Republic of Venice, when it attained the status of a lingua franca in the Mediterranean Sea. Notable Venetian-language authors include the playwrights Ruzante (1502–1542), Carlo Goldoni (1707–1793) and Carlo Gozzi (1720–1806). Following the old Italian theatre tradition (), they used Venetian in their comedies as the speech of the common folk. They are ranked among the foremost Italian theatrical authors of all time, and plays by Goldoni and Gozzi are still performed today all over the world. Other notable works in Venetian are the translations of the ''Iliad'' by Giacomo Casanova (1725–1798) and Francesco Boaretti, the translation of the ''Divine Comedy'' (1875) by Giuseppe Cappelli and the poems of Biagio Marin (1891–1985). Notable too is a manuscript titled ''Dialogo de Cecco di Ronchitti da Bruzene in perpuosito de la stella Nuova'' attributed to Girolamo Spinelli, perhaps with some supervision by Galileo Galilei for scientific details. Several VenetianItalian dictionaries are available in print and online, including those by Boerio, Contarini, Nazari and Piccio. As a literary language, Venetian was overshadowed by Dante Alighieri's Tuscan dialect (the best known writers of the Renaissance, such as Petrarch, Boccaccio and Machiavelli, were Tuscan and wrote in the Tuscan language) and languages of France like the Occitano-Romance languages and the langues d'oïl. Even before the demise of the Republic, Venetian gradually ceased to be used for administrative purposes in favor of the Tuscan-derived Italian language that had been proposed and used as a vehicle for a common Italian culture, strongly supported by eminent Venetian humanists and poets, from Pietro Bembo (1470–1547), a crucial figure in the development of the Italian language itself, to Ugo Foscolo (1778–1827). Virtually all modern Venetian speakers are diglossic with Italian. The present situation raises questions about the language's survival. Despite recent steps to recognize it, Venetian remains far below the threshold of inter-generational transfer with younger generations preferring standard Italian in many situations. The dilemma is further complicated by the ongoing large-scale arrival of immigrants, who only speak or learn standard Italian. Venetian spread to other continents as a result of mass migration from Veneto between 1870 and 1905, and 1945 and 1960. This itself was a by-product of the 1866 Italian annexation and heavy taxations (tassa sul macinato/mill tax), because the latter subjected the poorest sectors of the population to the vagaries of a newly integrated, developing national industrial economy centered on north-western Italy. Tens of thousands of starving peasants and craftsmen were thrown off their lands or out of their workshops, forced to seek better fortune overseas. Venetian migrants created large Venetian-speaking communities in Argentina, Brazil (see Talian), and Mexico (see Chipilo Venetian dialect), where the language is still spoken today. Internal migrations under the Fascist regime also deported many Venetian speakers to other regions of Italy, like southern Lazio. Currently, some firms have chosen to use Venetian language in advertising as a famous beer did some years ago (, "only the name is foreign"). In other cases advertisements in Veneto are given a "Venetian flavour" by adding a Venetian word to standard Italian: for instance an airline used the verb ( , "it is always bigger") into an Italian sentence (the correct Venetian being ) to advertise new flights from Marco Polo Airport. In 2007, Venetian was given recognition by the Regional Council of Veneto with regional law no. 8 of 13 April 2007 "Protection, enhancement and promotion of the linguistic and cultural heritage of Veneto". Though the law does not explicitly grant Venetian any official status, it provides for Venetian as object of protection and enhancement, as an essential component of the cultural, social, historical and civil identity of Veneto.

Geographic distribution

Venetian is spoken mainly in the Italian regions of Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia and in both Slovenia and Croatia (Istria, Dalmatia and the Kvarner Gulf). Smaller communities are found in Lombardy (Mantua), Trentino, Emilia-Romagna (Rimini and Forlì), Sardinia (Arborea, Terralba, Fertilia), Lazio (Pontine Marshes), and formerly in Romania (Tulcea). It is also spoken in North and South America by the descendants of Italian immigrants. Notable examples of this are Argentina and Brazil, particularly the city of São Paulo and the Talian dialect spoken in the Brazilian states of Espírito Santo, São Paulo, Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina. In Mexico, the Chipilo Venetian dialect is spoken in the state of Puebla and the town of Chipilo. The town was settled by immigrants from the Veneto region, and some of their descendants have preserved the language to this day. People from Chipilo have gone on to make satellite colonies in Mexico, especially in the states of Guanajuato, Querétaro, and State of Mexico. Venetian has also survived in the state of Veracruz, where other Italian migrants have settled since the late 19th century. The people of Chipilo preserve their dialect and call it , and it has been preserved as a variant since the 19th century. The variant of Venetian spoken by the () is northern Trevisàn-Feltrìn-Belumàt. In 2009, the Brazilian city of Serafina Corrêa, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, gave Talian a joint official status alongside Portuguese. Until the middle of the 20th century, Venetian was also spoken on the Greek Island of Corfu, which had long been under the rule of the Republic of Venice. Moreover, Venetian had been adopted by a large proportion of the population of Cephalonia, one of the Ionian Islands, because the island was part of the for almost three centuries.


Venetian is a Romance language and thus descends from Vulgar Latin. Its classification has always been controversial: According to Tagliavini, for example, it is one of the Italo-Dalmatian languages and most closely related to Istriot on the one hand and Tuscan–Italian on the other. Some authors include it among the Gallo-Italic languages, and according to others, it is not related to either one. It should be however stressed that both Ethnologue and Glottolog group Venetian into the Gallo-Italic languages. Although the language region is surrounded by Gallo-Italic languages, Venetian does not share some traits with these immediate neighbors. Some scholars stress Venetian's characteristic lack of Gallo-Italic traits () or traits found further afield in Gallo-Romance languages (e.g. Occitan, French, Franco-Provençal) or the Rhaeto-Romance languages (e.g. Friulian, Romansh). For example, Venetian did not undergo vowel rounding or nasalization, palatalize and , or develop rising diphthongs and , and it preserved final syllables, whereas, as in Italian, Venetian diphthongization occurs in historically open syllables. On the other hand, it is worth noting that Venetian does share many other traits with its surrounding Gallo-Italic languages, like interrogative clitics, mandatory unstressed subject pronouns (with some exceptions), the "to be behind to" verbal construction to express the continuous aspect ("El xé drìo magnàr" = He is eating, lit. he is behind to eat) and the absence of the absolute past tense as well as of geminated consonants. In addition, Venetian has some unique traits which are shared by neither Gallo-Italic, nor Italo-Dalmatian languages, such as the use of the impersonal passive forms and the use of the auxiliary verb "to have" for the reflexive voice (both traits shared with German). Modern Venetian is not a close relative of the extinct Venetic language spoken in Veneto before Roman expansion, although both are Indo-European, and Venetic may have been an Italic language, like Latin, the ancestor of Venetian and most other languages of Italy. The earlier Venetic people gave their name to the city and region, which is why the modern language has a similar name.

Regional variants

The main regional varieties and subvarieties of Venetian language are: *''Central'' (Padua, Vicenza, Polesine), with about 1,500,000 speakers *''Venician'' (Venice) * ''Eastern/Coastal'' (Trieste, Grado, Istria, Fiume), not be confused with the Istriot language * ''Western'' (Verona, Trentino), even though the Trentino dialect is a mix of Venitian with Lombard language * ''North-Central'' of the Provinces of Treviso and Belluno (comprising Feltre, Agordo, Cadore, and Zoldo Alto), not be confused with the Ladin language *''Northern'' (Province of Treviso, most of the Province of Pordenone) All these variants are mutually intelligible, with a minimum 92% in common among the most diverging ones (Central and Western). Modern speakers reportedly can still understand Venetian texts from the 14th century to some extent. Other noteworthy variants are: * the variety spoken in Chioggia * the variety spoken in the Pontine Marshes * the variety spoken in Dalmatia * the Talian dialect of Antônio Prado, Entre Rios, Santa Catarina and Toledo, Paraná, among other southern Brazilian cities * the Chipilo Venetian dialect ( es|Chipileño) of Chipilo, Mexico * Peripheral creole languages along the southern border (nearly extinct)


Like most Romance languages, Venetian has mostly abandoned the Latin case system, in favor of prepositions and a more rigid subject–verb–object sentence structure. It has thus become more analytic, if not quite as much as English. Venetian also has the Romance articles, both definite (derived from the Latin demonstrative ) and indefinite (derived from the numeral ). Venetian also retained the Latin concepts of gender (masculine and feminine) and number (singular and plural). Unlike the Gallo-Iberian languages, which form plurals by adding ''-s'', Venetian forms plurals in a manner similar to standard Italian. Nouns and adjectives can be modified by suffixes that indicate several qualities such as size, endearment, deprecation, etc. Adjectives (usually postfixed) and articles are inflected to agree with the noun in gender and number, but it is important to mention that the suffix might be deleted because the article is the part that suggests the number. However, Italian is influencing Venetian language: In recent studies on Venetian variants in Veneto, there has been a tendency to write the so-called "evanescent L" as . While it may help novice speakers, Venetian was never written with this letter. In this article, this symbol is used only in Veneto dialects of Venetian language. It will suffice to know that in Venetian language the letter L in word-initial and intervocalic positions usually becomes a "palatal allomorph", and is barely pronounced. No native Venetic words seem to have survived in present Venetian, but there may be some traces left in the morphology, such as the morpheme -''esto''/''asto''/''isto'' for the past participle, which can be found in Venetic inscriptions from about 500 BC: * Venetian: ("I have done") * Venetian Italian: * Standard Italian:

Redundant subject pronouns

A peculiarity of Venetian grammar is a "semi-analytical" verbal flexion, with a compulsory "clitic subject pronoun" before the verb in many sentences, "echoing" the subject as an ending or a weak pronoun. Independent/emphatic pronouns (e.g. ), on the contrary, are optional. The clitic subject pronoun () is used with the 2nd and 3rd person singular, and with the 3rd person plural. This feature may have arisen as a compensation for the fact that the 2nd- and 3rd-person inflections for most verbs, which are still distinct in Italian and many other Romance languages, are identical in Venetian. The Piedmontese language also has clitic subject pronouns, but the rules are somewhat different. The function of clitics is particularly visible in long sentences, which do not always have clear intonational breaks to easily tell apart vocative and imperative in sharp commands from exclamations with "shouted indicative". For instance, in Venetian the clitic marks the indicative verb and its masculine singular subject, otherwise there is an imperative preceded by a vocative. Although some grammars regard these clitics as "redundant", they actually provide specific additional information as they mark number and gender, thus providing number-/gender- agreement between the subject(s) and the verb, which does not necessarily show this information on its endings.

Interrogative inflection

Venetian also has a special ''interrogative'' verbal flexion used for direct questions, which also incorporates a redundant pronoun:

Auxiliary verbs

Reflexive tenses use the auxiliary verb ("to have"), as in English, Scandinavian, Spanish, Romanian and Neapolitan; instead of ("to be"), which would be normal in Italian. The past participle is invariable, unlike Italian:

Continuing action

Another peculiarity of the language is the use of the phrase (literally, "to be behind") to indicate continuing action: Another progressive form in some Venetian dialects uses the construction (lit. "to be there that"): * Venetian dialect: (lit. "My father he is there that he speaks"). The use of progressive tenses is more pervasive than in Italian; e.g. * English: "He wouldn't have been speaking to you". * Venetian: . That construction does not occur in Italian: ''*Non sarebbe mica stato parlandoti'' is not syntactically valid.

Subordinate clauses

Subordinate clauses have double introduction ("whom that", "when that", "which that", "how that"), as in Old English: As in other Romance languages, the subjunctive mood is widely used in subordinate clauses.



Some dialects of Venetian have certain sounds not present in Italian, such as the interdental voiceless fricative , often spelled with , , , or , and similar to English ''th'' in ''thing'' and ''thought''. This sound occurs, for example, in ("supper", also written ), which is pronounced the same as Castilian Spanish (which has the same meaning). The voiceless interdental fricative occurs in Bellunese, north-Trevisan, and in some Central Venetian rural areas around Padua, Vicenza and the mouth of the river Po. Because the pronunciation variant is more typical of older speakers and speakers living outside of major cities, it has come to be socially stigmatized, and most speakers now use or instead of . In those dialects with the pronunciation , the sound has fallen together with ordinary , and so it is not uncommon to simply write (or between vowels) instead of or (such as ). Similarly some dialects of Venetian also have a voiced interdental fricative , often written (as in 'he cries'); but in most dialects this sound is now pronounced either as (Italian ''voiced-Z''), or more typically as (Italian ''voiced-S'', written , as in ); in a few dialects the sound appears as and may therefore be written instead with the letter , as in . Some varieties of Venetian also distinguish an ordinary vs. a weakened or lenited ("evanescent") , which in some orthographic norms is indicated with the letter ; in more conservative dialects, however, both and are merged as ordinary . In those dialects that have both types, the precise phonetic realization of depends both on its phonological environment and on the dialect of the speaker. Typical realizations in the region of Venice include a voiced velar approximant or glide (usually described as nearly like an "e" and so often spelled as ), when is adjacent (only) to back vowels (), vs. a null realization when is adjacent to a front vowel (). In dialects further inland may be realized as a partially vocalised . Thus, for example, 'gondola' may sound like , , or . In dialects having a null realization of intervocalic , although pairs of words such as , "school" and , "broom" are homophonous (both being pronounced ), they are still distinguished orthographically. Venetian, like Spanish, does not have the geminate consonants characteristic of standard Italian, Tuscan, Neapolitan and other languages of southern Italy; thus Italian ("slices"), ("ball") and ("pen") correspond to , , and in Venetian. The masculine singular noun ending, corresponding to ''-o''/''-e'' in Italian, is often unpronounced in Venetian after continuants, particularly in rural varieties: Italian ("full") corresponds to Venetian , Italian to Venetian . The extent to which final vowels are deleted varies by dialect: the central–southern varieties delete vowels only after , whereas the northern variety delete vowels also after dental stops and velars; the eastern and western varieties are in between these two extremes. The velar nasal (the final sound in English "song") occurs frequently in Venetian. A word-final is always velarized, which is especially obvious in the pronunciation of many local Venetian surnames that end in , such as ''Marin'' and ''Manin'' , as well as in common Venetian words such as ( "hand"), ( "fork"). Moreover, Venetian always uses in consonant clusters that start with a nasal, whereas Italian only uses before velar stops: e.g. "to sing", "winter", "to anoint", "to cope with". Speakers of Italian generally lack this sound and usually substitute a dental for final Venetian , changing for example to and to .


An accented ''á'' can also be pronounced as []. An intervocalic // can be pronounced as a [] sound. The vowel sometimes can be a [[semivowel, usually in the [[Trigraph (orthography)|trigraphs +vowel and [[Trigraph (orthography)|+vowel like in the words and ; sometimes those trigraphs can also be spelled with a [] sound, like in and . Also the vowel is often a [[semiconsonant, in words where it derived from the letter like in also transcribed like .


While written Venetian looks similar to Italian, it sounds very different, with a distinct lilting cadence, almost musical. Compared to Italian, in Venetian syllabic rhythms are more evenly timed, accents are less marked, but on the other hand tonal modulation is much wider and melodic curves are more intricate. Stressed and unstressed syllables sound almost the same; there are no long vowels, and there is no consonant lengthening. Compare the Italian sentence ''"go there with him"'' (all long/heavy syllables but final) with Venetian (all short/light syllables).

Sample etymological lexicon

As a direct descent of regional spoken Latin, Venetian lexicon derives its vocabulary substantially from Latin and (in more recent times) from Tuscan, so that most of its words are cognate with the corresponding words of Italian. Venetian includes however many words derived from other sources (such as Greek, Gothic, and German), and has preserved some Latin words not used to the same extent in Italian, resulting in many words that are not cognate with their equivalent words in Italian, such as:

Spelling systems

Traditional system

Venetian does not have an official writing system, but it is traditionally written using the Latin script — sometimes with certain additional letters or diacritics. The basis for some of these conventions can be traced to Old Venetian, while others are purely modern innovations. Medieval texts, written in Old Venetian, include the letters , and to represent sounds that do not exist or have a different distribution in Italian. Specifically: * The letter was often employed in words that nowadays have a voiced -sound (compare English ''xylophone''); for instance appears in words such as , , ("reason", "(holy) Cross" and "house"). The precise phonetic value of in Old Venetian texts remains unknown, however. * The letter often appeared in words that nowadays have a varying voiced pronunciation ranging from to or or even to ; even in contemporary spelling "down" may represent any of or even , depending on the dialect; similarly "young woman" could be any of , or , and "zero" could be , or . * Likewise, was written for a voiceless sound which now varies, depending on the dialect spoken, from to to , as in for example "sweet", now , "sweetness", now , or "hope", now . The usage of letters in medieval and early modern texts was not, however, entirely consistent. In particular, as in other northern Italian languages, the letters and were often used interchangeably for both voiced and voiceless sounds. Differences between earlier and modern pronunciation, divergences in pronunciation within the modern Venetian-speaking region, differing attitudes about how closely to model spelling on Italian norms, as well as personal preferences, some of which reflect sub-regional identities, have all hindered the adoption of a single unified spelling system. Nevertheless, in practice, most spelling conventions are the same as in Italian. In some early modern texts letter becomes limited to word-initial position, as in ("is"), where its use was unavoidable because Italian spelling cannot represent there. In between vowels, the distinction between and was ordinarily indicated by doubled for the former and single for the latter. For example, was used to represent ("he/she kisses"), whereas represented ("low"). (Before consonants there is no contrast between and , as in Italian, so a single is always used in this circumstance, it being understood that the will agree in voicing with the following consonant. For example, represents only , but represents .) Traditionally the letter was ambiguous, having the same values as in Italian (both voiced and voiceless affricates and ). Nevertheless, in some books the two pronunciations are sometimes distinguished (in between vowels at least) by using doubled to indicate (or in some dialects ) but a single for (or , ). In more recent practice the use of to represent , both in word-initial as well as in intervocalic contexts, has become increasingly common, but no entirely uniform convention has emerged for the representation of the voiced vs. voiceless affricates (or interdental fricatives), although a return to using and remains an option under consideration. Regarding the spelling of the vowel sounds, because in Venetian, as in Italian, there is no contrast between tense and lax vowels in unstressed syllables, the orthographic grave and acute accents can be used to mark both stress and vowel quality at the same time: ''à'' , ''á'' , ''è'' , ''é'' , ''í'' , ''ò'' , ''ó'' , ''ú'' . Different orthographic norms prescribe slightly different rules for when stressed vowels must be written with accents or may be left unmarked, and no single system has been accepted by all speakers. Venetian allows the consonant cluster (not present in Italian), which is sometimes written or before ''i'' or ''e'', and or before other vowels. Examples include (Italian , "to clear up"), (, "plain clear"), (, "gun") and (, "ourservant", , "hello", "goodbye"). The hyphen or apostrophe is used because the combination is conventionally used for the sound, as in Italian spelling; e.g. (, "stupid"); whereas before ''a'', ''o'' and ''u'' represents : (, "box"), (, "to hide"), (, "to forgive").

Proposed systems

Recently there have been attempts to standardize and simplify the script by reusing older letters, e.g. by using for and a single for ; then one would write for ("hird person singularkisses") and for ("low"). Some authors have continued or resumed the use of , but only when the resulting word is not too different from the Italian orthography: in modern Venetian writings, it is then easier to find words as and , rather than and , even though all these four words display the same phonological variation in the position marked by the letter . Another recent convention is to use (in place of older ) for the "soft" ''l'', to allow a more unified orthography for all variants of the language. However, in spite of their theoretical advantages, these proposals have not been very successful outside of academic circles, because of regional variations in pronunciation and incompatibility with existing literature. More recently, on December 14, 2017, the Modern International Manual of Venetian Spelling has been approved by the new Commission for Spelling of 2010. It has been translated in three languages (Italian, Venetian and English) and it exemplifies and explains every single letter and every sound of the Venetian language. The graphic accentuation and punctuation systems are added as corollaries. Overall, the system has been greatly simplified from previous ones to allow both Italian and foreign speakers to learn and understand the Venetian spelling and alphabet in a more straightforward way. The Venetian speakers of Chipilo use a system based on Spanish orthography, even though it does not contain letters for and . The American linguist Carolyn McKay proposed a writing system for that variant based entirely on the Italian alphabet. However, the system was not very popular.

Sample texts

Ruzante returning from war

The following sample, in the old dialect of Padua, comes from a play by Ruzante (Angelo Beolco), titled ("Dialogue of Ruzante who came from the battlefield", 1529). The character, a peasant returning home from the war, is expressing to his friend Menato his relief at being still alive:

The following sample is taken from the ''Perasto Speech'' (), given on August 23, 1797 at Perasto, by Venetian Captain Giuseppe Viscovich, at the last lowering of the flag of the Venetian Republic (nicknamed the "Republic of Saint Mark").

Francesco Artico

The following is a contemporary text by Francesco Artico. The elderly narrator is recalling the church choir singers of his youth, who, needless to say, sang much better than those of today:

Venetian lexical exports to English

Many words were exported to English, either directly or via Italian or French. The list below shows some examples of imported words, with the date of first appearance in English according to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.

See also

* Venetian literature * Talian dialect * Chipilo Venetian dialect * — Venetian language magazine



* * * * *

External links

General grammar; comparison to other Romance languages; description of the Venetian dialect
* —samples of written and spoken Venetian by Francesco Artico

{{DEFAULTSORT:Venetian Language Category:Languages of Veneto Category:Languages of Friuli-Venezia Giulia Category:Languages of Croatia